Lindy Fishburne has spent most of the last six years heading up Breakout Labs, a San Francisco-based program that's underwritten by renowned investor Peter Thiel and that in 2011 began offering nascent science-focused startups up to $350,000 in funding with no strings attached.
The idea from the start was to support scientist-entrepreneurs for a year or two so they might reach the next critical milestone of their research. If the teams should catch the attention of investors afterward, all the better.
Turns out some of its companies have done just that. One of the first outfits to receive seed capital from Breakout Labs, a tissue imaging platform called 3Scan, has gone on to raise $20.7 million from Lux Capital and Data Collective, among other investors. Another, Modern Meadow, which grows leather in a lab and has been partnering with fashion companies and tanneries, has raised $53.5 million from investors.
Little wonder that Fishburne -- who was formerly senior vice president of investments at the Thiel Foundation -- decided it might make sense to enlist her Breakout Labs colleagues -- including its scientific director, Hemai Parthasarathy and portfolio director Julia Moore -- and create a more traditional venture fund that can support some of these companies as they, yes, break out.
Toward that end, their year-old outfit, Breakout Ventures, has just closed its debut fund with $60.1 million in capital commitments. (An SEC filing had popped up earlier this morning; Fishburne, with whom we communicated over email earlier today, confirmed for us that the fund is now closed.)
Asked if Thiel is an anchor investor in the fund, Fishburne declined to say, but she tells us Thiel Foundation is a limited partner, along with other "family offices and institutions interested in building a future powered by science," including DCVC co-founders Matt Ocko and Zach Bogue, S-Cubed Capital, and Dolby Family Ventures.
Fishburne also says the firm has already begun writing some checks. It owns stakes in 3Scan and Modern Meadow, for example. It also owns stakes in two other companies that have received seed funding from Breakout Labs: Cortexyme and Immusoft.
Cortexyme is at work on therapies for Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative disorders and has so far raised at least $23 million, including from Pfizer. Immusoft, a gene therapy company that re-programs a patient’s own B cells to attack diseases like HIV, has meanwhile raised roughly $5 million, shows Crunchbase.
Broadly speaking, Fishburne says that Breakout Ventures plans to focus on Series A- and Series B-stage "deep science" companies, and that it plans to leverage the Breakout Labs pipeline. "We know those companies better than anyone else and have seen them execute from the very beginning," she notes.
The team will occasionally invest outside of that pipeline, Fishburne adds. In fact, she estimates that between 20 and 30 percent of investments from this new fund will be made in teams outside the universe of Breakout Lab companies.
In the meantime, to keep that pipeline full, Fishburne, Parthasarathy and Moore continue to manage Breakout Labs. There, they'll keep selecting between 6 and 10 new deep-science companies each year to support.
Pictured above, left to right: Hemai Parthasarathy, Lindy Fishburne, Julia Moore.